Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at Vital, and this is The Long Game Newsletter. To receive it in your inbox each week, subscribe here:
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In this episode, we explore:
Wearables: From data to insights
Finding the right life partner
Don’t surround yourself with smarter people
Your startup is a movement
Why men don’t age like wine?
Things you’re allowed to do
Let’s dive in!
⌚ Wearables: From Data to Insights
I liked this article describing the efforts of researchers looking to track the health & behavioral data of pregnant women to generate insights later:
4YouandMe has launched an effort to follow the pregnancies of roughly 1,000 people, collecting a constant stream of hundreds of measures from devices as well as regular reports about symptoms like mood and fatigue. The goal, first and foremost, is to prove that so much data can be reliably collected. But beyond that, the researchers hope they can use some of these measures to describe the unique experience of an individual pregnancy and how much variability there is between individuals. While the study, called Better Understanding the Metamorphosis of Pregnancy, or BUMP, is only seeking to suss out the feasibility of methods, it could also pave the way for new technologies that can predict complications or better direct treatment for them.
This is the general thesis of the health optimization space: we need to collect data for enough time, on enough people, to get to a good understanding of human health and wellbeing and then be able to give precise recommendations and help people have actionable results in their day to day lives, and achieve their health & wellbeing objectives.
Although the space is relatively young, many people, including the researchers in the article mentioned above, understand how challenging this endeavor is because it requires active participation from the users in tracking their health:
“I actually think that our hopes or our vision for digital health could fail if we don’t figure out this engagement piece,” said Goodday. “So we are testing out and trying to learn: How can you engage individuals from diverse backgrounds in the use of these tools and how can we ingrain them into their daily lives?”
This is precisely why we initially pivoted in our journey at Vital, from a health app to a verticalized social network focused on health optimization. We believe that figuring out the “full health hub able to provide me with detailed recommendations and optimize my health” will be created by a company more akin to Instagram/ Snapchat/ TikTok on the engagement side than a pure “data-only” health app.
🎯 Picking the Right Life Partner
Picking the right life partner is arguably the most important decision you’ll make. This is one of the best things I’ve read on the topic:
From afar, a great marriage is a sweeping love story, like a marriage in a book or a movie. And that’s a nice, poetic way to look at a marriage as a whole.
But human happiness doesn’t function in sweeping strokes, because we don’t live in broad summations—we’re stuck in the tiny unglamorous folds of the fabric of life, and that’s where our happiness is determined.
So if we want to find a happy marriage, we need to think small—we need to look at marriage up close and see that it’s built not out of anything poetic, but out of 20,000 mundane Wednesdays.
Marriage isn’t the honeymoon in Thailand—it’s day four of vacation #56 that you take together. Marriage is not celebrating the closing of the deal on the first house—it’s having dinner in that house for the 4,386th time. And it’s certainly not Valentine’s Day.
Marriage is Forgettable Wednesday. Together.
The three key ingredients to make this happen are:
An Epic Friendship
I enjoy spending time with most of my friends—that’s why they’re my friends. But with certain friends, the time is so high-quality, so interesting, and so fun that they pass the Traffic Test.
The Traffic Test is passed when I’m finishing up a hangout with someone and one of us is driving the other back home or back to their car, and I find myself rooting for traffic. That’s how much I’m enjoying the time with them.
Passing the Traffic Test says a lot. It means I’m lost in the interaction, invigorated by it, and that I’m the complete opposite of bored.
To me, almost nothing is more critical in choosing a life partner than finding someone who passes the Traffic Test. When there are people in your life who do pass the Traffic Test, what a whopping shame it would be to spend 95% of the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t.
A feeling of home
When it comes to marriage, a perpetual “discomfort” between you and your partner can be a permanent source of unhappiness, especially as it magnifies over time, much like your torturous situation in the chair. Feeling “at home” means feeling safe, cozy, natural, and utterly yourself, and in order to have this feeling with a partner, a few things need to be in place:
A determination to be good at marriage
Relationships are hard. Expecting a strong relationship without treating it like a rigorous part-time job is like expecting to have a great career without putting in any effort. In a time when humans in most parts of the world can enjoy freedom and carve their own path in life, it usually doesn’t sit that well to suddenly become half of something and compromise on a bunch of things you grew up being selfish about.
So what skills does someone need to learn to be good at marriage?
Finally, it’s also important to remember that it’s hard to get all of this in one person:
In searching for your life partner or assessing your current life partnership, it’s important to remember that every relationship is flawed and you probably won’t end up in something that gets an A in every one of the above items and bullet points—but you should hope to do pretty well on most of them, since each one plays a large part in your lifelong happiness.
And since this is a daunting list to try to achieve in a life partnership, you probably don’t want to make things even harder than they need to be by insisting upon too many other checkboxes—most of which will not have a large effect on your happiness during dinner #4,386 of your marriage. It would be nice if he played the guitar, but take it off the list of must-haves.
Unfortunately, online dating complicated the journey of finding the right life partner.
Pair with: Why settle when there are plenty of fish in the sea? Rusbult’s investment model applied to online dating
online dating can come at a cost...providing a large pool of potential partners creates choice overload, makes online daters more pessimistic and rejecting, and triggers more searching and decreases the perceived quality of the final partner selection
🧠 Better Thinking
✋ Don’t Surround Yourself With Smarter People
What if the classic advice “surround yourself with people smarter than you” was misguided? This is what this excellent piece argues:
There is an idea that I have been guilty of uncritically parroting and promoting in the past: surround yourself with smarter people. Another popular version is never be the smartest guy in the room.
Beneath the humblebragging in both versions (your cut-off for smart is a de facto declaration of “look how smart I am; only Einsteins are worthy of surrounding me, and I understand the things they say!”), there is a basic logical issue: If the smarter people are dumb enough to surround themselves with the likes of you, they are dumber than you, which means they’re smart and you’re dumb. Wait. What?
So what to do instead?
My alternative to the heuristic, which many of you have heard in off-blog conversations, is that I am only interested in people as long as they are unpredictable to me. If I can predict what you’ll do or say, I’ll lose interest in you rapidly. If you can keep regularly surprising me in some way, forcing me to actually think in unscripted ways in order to respond, I’ll stay interested. It’s reciprocal. I suspect the people with whom I develop long-term relationships are the ones I surprise regularly. The ones who find me predictable don’t stick around. We’re not talking any old kind of surprise, but non sequiturs. Surprises that you can’t really relate to anything else, and don’t know what to do with. Mind-expanding surprises rather than gap-closing surprises.
Huh?! rather than aha! or ooh!
So smarter isn’t the word here (even though there’s one definition of smart that’s close to “unpredictable”). Neither is different. I can often predict the behavior of smarter and/or different people of both unconventional and conventional types. The trick is to surround yourself with people who are free in ways you’re not. In other words, don’t surround yourself with smarter people. Surround yourself with differently free people.
So instead of surrounding yourself with smarter people, surround yourself with differently free people.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🌌 Your Startup Is a Movement
I linked to this excellent piece by David Sacks about 18 months ago, but I somehow remembered it this weekend while walking around the city. It gives an idea about how founders should think about marketing: the Movement Marketing Playbook.
Here’s a summary:
Define a larger cause.
“Whereas paid marketing buys people’s attention, earned marketing obtains it for free. In order to do that, founders have to stand for a cause larger than just their self-interest.”
Articulate the problem better than anyone else.
“Many founders are like bad politicians — they are “policy wonks.” They just want to talk about their features. I’ve got news for you: Nobody cares about your features. At least not yet. First people need to understand the problem you’re solving. Then they need to understand your solution. Only then will they be interested in your features.”
Attack the status quo.
“Inevitably, as your startup becomes more successful, it will attract competitors. Don’t fall into the trap of seeing copycats as the enemy. Treat them as validation that the world is moving to your point of view. When a legacy car company introduces a new electric car, Elon welcomes them to the market. The real enemy is fossil fuels.”
Define a category.
“The category is the solution to the problem. After articulating the need for change, it’s not quite credible simply to posit yourself as the solution; rather, what you do is the solution, and the category is the shortest, crispest way of describing that.”
Build the right team.
Use “grassroots” customer testimony.
“Make sure you get customer logos, press releases, case studies, and reference accounts. There’s nothing as convincing as grassroots support for a campaign.”
Release news in lightning strikes, not dribs and drabs.
“To get the world’s attention, you need to up-level and combine news about products, customers, milestones, and partnerships. Remind people about the larger problem that you’re solving; keep providing context, and time lightning strikes for maximum impact.”
Organize events to focus attention.
“Rallies build momentum for a political campaign. The equivalent for startups are launch events. They focus internal and external attention and remind everyone, from employees to prospects, about the importance of your movement and the change you are creating in the world.”
Nurture your community.
Pick noble fights.
“If you’re going to pick a fight, just remember to always (1) punch up, not down (it should be against a bigger competitor), (2) stay product-focused, and (3) keep the tone positive.”
Strive for a large tent.
“Great political movements try to find ways to work with both parties when possible, and not unnecessarily alienate either side. Similarly, startups would be well advised to stay away from partisan political battles.”
Work with press and influencers in the right way.
“All of this said, it’s important not to go too far with Movement Marketing. Keep the conversation grounded and focused on business value. This is, after all, just business. We are not “elevating the world’s consciousness,” as WeWork claimed.”
📚 What I Read
A funny wake-up call for men, primarily caused by the fact that most men don’t take care of themselves appropriately.
Many men seem blissfully unaware that, while the dating game may seem brutal and unfair in adolescence, it’s going to remain brutal and unfair later, just in different ways. They’re not going to mature into a debonair George Clooney-type who has the women gushing over his overgrown ear hair. They’re just going to become increasingly repulsive as they age.
Part of the misunderstanding comes from selection effect. One statistic often thrown around is that women reach peak desirability around 18, and men at 50. But that applies to men and women on particular dating sites, which will only include very select types of older men. The sort of 50-year-old still in the thick of the dating game is going to be your Blake Carrington type, wealthy and successful alpha males who have probably gone through a couple of divorces but still have enough cash to show a woman a good time and take her to the south of France for the weekend.
To those of you too young to remember TV from the 1980s, Blake Carrington was the silver fox from Dynasty who tricked my generation (born 1978) into believing that men age like wine, when they clearly don’t. He was married multiple times, an alpha male signal, but it’s alpha because very few men can afford it. Rather than living in a neo-classical mansion surrounded by women in shoulder pads, the typical divorced man is far more likely to end up above a kebab shop living in penury.
Male attractiveness actually peaks around the mid-20s, only three or four years after women, and starts to drop quite sharply after 40...If you can’t get a date in your 20s, you’re not going to get one in your 30s or 40s.
An excellent and important piece:
But they fell into the exact trap I’m describing here. If you need a research paper to tell you that someone stuck in a cage devoid of any comforts will be more prone to drug addiction than someone stuck in a near-idyllic society, then you are beyond help. Useful knowledge does not need Sciencism. The explanatory power of Rat Park is not because of some science labels that were slapped on it, it’s how the story helps unlock your intuition about behavior change.
“A story or anecdote is not proof” well neither is being able to find a study on Pubmed that agrees with you. But a cherry picked study gives a stronger, condescending illusion of proof. Much like the religious orthodox who thinks anything not published in their book of choice must be heresy, the “ahkshually” Sciencist (not Scientist, to be clear) has closed their mind off to a more cohesive, fluid, and adaptive worldview.
This is also what the Flat Earthers get wrong. They realize that on some level Sciencism has failed us, but then they take it wayyy too far and think that means Physics is bunk too. Obviously trust physics. Just remember that Psychology is not Physics. Every field of study is somewhere on the Bichon to Wolf spectrum. Gender Studies is a Beanie Baby or something.
I’m curious how this work from home/remote discussion will play out.
In the near future, then, management may regain the upper hand from labor, as the Great Resignation becomes the Great Labor Slackening. Company culture will more resemble what bosses want, rather than what workers want—and that could mean a lot more butts in seats. According to surveys by the Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, nearly 80 percent of employees say they prefer to work at home at least one day a week. But managers are roughly split on the question of whether remote workers are as productive as office workers.
We’re already getting little glimpses of how a bleak economic situation might burst the WFH bubble. Several weeks ago, Elon Musk told his employees to return to the office or else lose their jobs. This initially looked like a straightforward threat by an eccentric CEO with a passion for office-based proximity. But days later, Tesla announced that it would likely have to lay off 10 percent of its workforce, suggesting that Musk was using the threat of return-to-office to get some of his workers to quit on their own, without the indignity of announcing a large layoff.
🍭 Brain Food
I enjoyed this reminder of all the things you’re allowed to do but that you might not be doing for one reason or another. The list is long and contains many gems.
Live off your savings while trying something new
If you can’t live off your savings, get a grant
Work for yourself
Cold contact people
Follow up many times
Approach a person or group you admire and ask whether they want to cofound something with you
Propose that a person, group, or company contract-to-hire you
Learn how professionals email by reading leaked emails.
As mentioned above, buy research or data, e.g. for compensation
Work in public
Sell to unusual markets
ZetrOZ was building a medical device, but started by selling to olympic horse teams, then olympic human athletes
Some biotech companies start in pets
Write interviews with yourself and send them to journalists
Fly to people for in-person meetings/visits to demonstrate seriousness
In general, just ask for things, even if you’ve never heard someone ask for them
🎥 What I’m Watching
🇨🇳 Could China Survive the Sanctions Against Russia?
All eyes are on Taiwan lately. This video helps understand what sanctions on China could mean.
🏗 The Race to Build the World’s Tallest Building
Which building will dethrone the Burj Khalifa? When will that happen?
🔧 The Tool of the Week
A searchable, tagged database of all Visualize Value assets to help you find the best visualization for your projects.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
Delay your intuition. Don’t try to form an intuition quickly. Focus on the separate points, and when you have the full profile, then you can have an intuition.
— Daniel Kahneman
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